Kyle Partain, Sheep Industry News Editor
We all know the versatility of wool. We understand the principles that make it so marketable within the fashion and outdoor sports industries.
So, it should come as no surprise that Utah’s Albert Wilde took that same product and turned it into pellets that help plants absorb water while at the same time protecting them from over-watering. For lack of a better mental picture, it’s like wrapping your plants in a pair of wool socks.
Wooley Water Wise pellets were born in the years between 2012 and 2015. The original concept was to use raw wool as a fertilizer, but further examination of the concept didn’t produce great results.
“The problems were it breaks down slowly, there was no good way to handle or spread the wool and expenses were high,” said Wilde.
Dave Streadbeck, Wilde’s partner in a composting business, eventually bought a pellet mill in 2015. The purchase presented a new way to use wool in a similar fashion to the original concept. Wool pellets are marketed in Europe as a way to repel slugs and snails, but Wilde’s Wooley Water Wise pellets take the concept a bit further.
Made from 100 percent American raw wool – with much of the wool coming from Utah producers – the pellets provide calcium, magnesium, iron, sulfur and other nutrients to plants. For those in the wool industry, the best part is that the pellets are made from belly wool and tags – parts of a fleece that generally are thought to be less valuable.
Wilde has teamed with Pineae Greenhouses to produce hanging baskets with the wool pellets. Those baskets should be available in select Costco locations this spring.
M.R. Wilde and Sons, as the family ranch is known, isn’t new to the fertilizer world. Cattle on the place offer an all-natural steer manure, which proved popular among gardeners looking for natural options in recent years. From there, it was only natural to see if the ranch’s sheep could play a role in the natural fertilizer movement, as well.
A sixth-generation rancher, Wilde said there was a learning curve in producing wool pellets. It was something that had never been done at the commercial mill Streadbeck purchased.
“We spent two days really working on the process,” Wilde said. “We don’t have to clean it or wash it in any way. We just feed it into the mill. We run 2,500 head of sheep and have always sold through the Utah Wool Marketing Association. Wool prices have been up and down through the years, so we’re always looking for something that is added value.”
The companies first pellets were rolling out of the mill about this time in 2015. Since then, a variety of tests have been in the works to provide consumers with tangible evidence of the products’ claims.
While it’s been a “Wilde” ride, it appears Wooley Water Wise pellets are here to stay.
Visit WildValleyFarms.com for more information.